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At the time, I was overwhelmed by the emotion surrounding me in the United Nations’ Paris Climate Summit (COP21) and unsure how I felt about the Agreement personally, knowing that, while historic in nature, the ambition of the Agreement was completely detached from the scientific reality of our rapidly changing climate.
A year of climate drama
On a more positive note, at least we’ve recently seen an effort by the aviation industry to address their significant greenhouse gas emissions and a global agreement to phase out harmful HFCs , buying us a little bit more time and less warming.
There's no place like home
In the last year, we’ve watched the Irish government:
- Contest the 13 billion Euro the EU declared Ireland was owed by Apple
- Return to Celtic Tiger housing policies, encouraging more urban sprawl and inflationary prices and ignoring the quarter of a million vacant properties in Ireland that could be put to better use.
- Fail to uphold their promise to bring 4,000 refugees to Ireland. They’ve brought 311 refugees into the country since that promise was made two years ago and still haven’t reformed our direct provision system, so those that do arrive in Ireland are treated like prisoners in the ‘land of a thousand welcomes’.
- And give themselves a EUR 5,000 wage restoration for their efforts…
When I returned from the UN Climate Summit in Paris last year, my colleagues and I were inundated with requests to speak. The immense public interest in post-Paris briefings gave me hope that COP21 was a turning point for climate action in Ireland.
Coincidentally, Ireland experienced some of the midlands’ worst flood damage on record during the Paris conference, and there wasn’t a minister in the country that didn’t stand beside flood waters expressing concern for victims and declaring we could expect more of this due to climate change. In my mind, we were finally change ready.
Since Ireland agreed to the aims of the UN Climate Agreement, here are some of the things that have happened in the country with respect to climate action:
Ireland's politicians beside flood waters in winter 2015-2016 to express their concern.
- Our EPA reported Ireland will fail to reach our 2020 EU emission reduction targets, with the transport sector alone projected to increase emissions between 13-19% between now and 2020
- Our Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, ignores the worst congestion on our largest motorway to date, failing to allocate any further money to sustainable transport in spite of the largest cycling protest in over a decade (which he also ignored).
- The IIEA reported Ireland faces a EUR 5.5 billion fine for failing to meet our 2030 targets. (Pity we sent back that #AppleTax)
- Several of our Ministers travelled to Brussels to water down our EU climate targets to such a point that we now have an incentive to increase emissions between now and 2018
- We increased the purchase of dirty coal for our power stations from 2014.
- This week, Minister Naughten told us there’s no room for a solar energy revolution in Ireland and Minister Kyne advocated for the continued prostitution of Ireland’s offshore hydrocarbon reserves.
- And we still have no national strategy to address climate change since the last one expired in 2012.
On the ground, I’ve observed a shift in how people talk about climate change since the Paris Climate Summit. At least the Paris Agreement fostered a global acceptance of the problem which paved the way for real work to begin. I still believe the people of Ireland are game for transformation because our systems are broken on so many levels and sustainable solutions could help in so many ways, but most of our politicians are slow to catch up and love their status quo.
The dreams you dare to dream...
That’s why I’m on my way to COP22 in Marrakesh. -Paris’ COP21 may have been historic, but COP22 is all about action, which makes it even more significant than the dream that was Paris. To stay with my Wizard of Oz analogy, for now, I'm still on the yellow brick road hoping to find out that Paris wasn't just a dream and we're really headed toward a world of emerald green cities. Marrakesh is where our negotiators will have to show their cards.
Following a week of top-down influencing with the Friends of the Earth International delegation at COP22, I return to Ireland just in time for some bottom-up action as part of Stop Climate Chaos’ mass lobby of TDs on November 15th.